We’re all aware that in recent weeks and months, the news surrounding Michigan State football hasn’t exactly been positive, and rightfully so. But, especially when the stories have been predominantly negative, it becomes increasingly important for us to tell the stories of people who make a positive impact on the Spartans. Not only is this one about someone who’s made a positive impact on MSU…it’s about one of the real good guys the program has period.
He’s the anchor of what has become a young yet depleted Michigan State defensive line. He may be the anchor but he’s not exactly a veteran (still a redshirt freshman, soon-to-be a redshirt sophomore), and yet his maturity and leadership skills have made him one of the most important players inside the Spartans locker room. He is number 99, Raequan Williams.
“To wear that green everyday, it means everything because they changed my life. I just appreciate all of it,” Williams told Spartan Nation.
The 6’4”, 304-pound defensive tackle from Chicago, IL is a gentile giant and quiet leader. You won’t hear him scream…you’ll just see him lead by example.
“Come in and work hard everyday. Everyday we have to get better at something…any little thing. We have to get better every single day,” Williams explained.
Last year in his redshirt freshman season, Raequan tallied 28 tackles, including five for loss. He had two sacks (one at Notre Dame and the other at home against Wisconsin) and also had one forced fumble (also in the home game against Wisconsin).
“We’ve gotta play together,” Raequan explained about what the youthful Spartans defensive line has to do to meet expectations and take the next step this season. “As a young D-line, we’ve gotta know that we need one another. We need to be in the right spot or the right gap. We all need to learn to play and understand the game and what the offense is trying to do to us.”
Raequan views things from a different perspective though. This is not just a man who has been given an opportunity to play college football; Raequan is a man who was given an opportunity to be different and rise above the area he grew up in.
“It’s a pretty different feeling from where I come from. It’s just nice to have a place like this,” Williams said of being a student at Michigan State.
“Where I come from, it’s just a tough place. A lot of people with the wrong intentions and a lot of people just not out there to make the world a better place. A lot of people just don’t know about places like this where I’m from and it’s just sad. It was a tough place to grow up.”
Raequan did not fall into the crowd…he rose above it. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t occasionally look backwards and realize how far he’s come and how fortunate he is.
“I knew since day one that this was a blessing,” he admitted. “They give us food, workouts, a place to focus on school…I’m just blessed. I’m just blessed to get a scholarship to play here and play the game and get a degree.”
The degree part is incredibly important to Raequan. He’s just as happy getting an ‘A’ on a report card as he is getting a win.
“I just like to see my mom happy,” Williams said. “Every time I get a great report, I call my mom. It’s just motivation…I love my mom.”
According to Raequan, that’s predominantly where his character comes from – his mom.
“I just never wanted to let my mom down. She did a lot for me growing up, and I’m just happy I can go to college and make her happy.”
And yet somehow, that nice, down-to-earth, mature and humble gentle giant off the field turns into a monster between the white lines.
“Something just switches…the ‘other guy’ gets let out!” Anyone that has an alter ego called “the other guy” is one I don’t want to mess with on the football field!
But it all comes back to being a leader for Raequan Williams. It’s never going to be explicit - he’s never going to create a scene to show that he’s leading the way for his teammates – he just does it, and that’s the way he likes it.
“I feel like it made a lot of people like me and want to listen to me and follow me. I’m not the guy that’s yelling at them…I’m just the guy that’s telling them to work hard, and if you work hard, everything’s gonna come. People feel like they accomplish something.”
The youth movement on the Michigan State defensive line will go through its fair share of growing pains…that jump from high school to college, or the jump from bench player to starter in college, is not an easy task. But with a guy like Raequan Williams showing, not telling, them how to do it, the Spartans defense is in great hands.